Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Time should be kind to Big Ben's legacy

Ben Wallace has stated this will be his final season. He is playing about 14 minutes a game. He is averaging just more than a point per game. He isn't among the NBA's leading rebounders. Long ago, he stopped being the best off-the-ball defender in the league and a true force guarding the rim. Considering the current state of the Pistons and NBA overall following the lockout (other than Linsanity), it ultimate winding down of a career.
But Wallace's recent milestone - playing the most NBA games ever for an undrafted player - brought back reminders of just what a unique player Wallace was during his prime.
He was the best defensive player in the NBA for a number of years. A great rebounder. Sometime he'd struggle in the post with the NBA bigger centers (Chris Webber, for example, gave him fits), but his "help" defense was second to none.
Offensively, he was a disaster much of the time. And it wasn't pleasant when he'd whine about not getting the ball enough. Some of the attitude issues shocked people near the end of his first stint with the Pistons - it had been perceived he was the quintessential team player - and it didn't go nearly well in other NBA stops.
But this much is clear: No Ben Wallace, no NBA title for the Pistons in 2004. No reaching the finals and pushing the Spurs to seven games another year. It's doubtful the Pistons would have reached the Eastern Conference as many years in a row as they did (six).
I think he was the most important "Going to Work" Piston. No. 1. Even though he never averaged double digits scoring in a season, I still believe Ben Wallace was a truly great and unique player.
And I hope, as time goes on, people will remember just how great.



Anonymous ST said...

Well said, in his prime, Big Ben was an absolute force. In my mind, he should be remembered as one of the all-time Piston greats. Not on the Isaiah, Joe D, Bing level, but a Piston great none the less.

I too was completely disappointed to see the attitude of that group disintegrate as a whole during that era, not just Big Ben’s. That group as a whole almost became un-coachable at the end, and that type of entitlement does not fly in this area. Over time, the mantra slowly shifted from Go To Work, to Whine At Work. None the less, he was a special player during, what turned out to be, a pretty darn good era.

3:52 PM 
Blogger Larry Baker said...

Ben Wallace has been a tremendous testimony to work ethic. He maximized his strengths and has managed to hold on a couple of years beyond his athletic shelf life due to his smarts.

But I'm not sure why you are concerned about how he will be remembered. Fans have been incredibly willing to overlook his deficiencies. Even though he left us for the Bulls, all was forgiven upon his return. If no one cares about his retirement, it is because he now is a marginal player on a dreadful team. But no one has forgotten the rebounding, shot-blocking warrior of yore.

5:26 PM 

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